Drawing up Homeland 'interstate'

The Bush administration's concept of an "interstate communications expressway" for homeland security — comparable to the nation's interstate highway system — is still very much in the development stage.

In fact, it's simply two pages of scribbled notes, said Steve Cooper, senior director of information integration and chief information officer at the Office of Homeland Security.

But there are grand plans for this new idea, under which the national data and voice network needed for homeland security will be built from the bottom up, relying on and connecting to the systems already in place at the state level instead of creating a single, huge federal network.

Officials are looking at the National Guard's intranet, which covers all 50 states and two U.S. territories. That network could help connect states' systems, and officials are talking with their counterparts at the Defense Department's National Communications System to see how to build on other DOD networks, Cooper said, speaking at the Industry Advisory Council's annual Executive Leadership Conference last week.

The office also is planning to ask for about $3 million in the fiscal 2004 budget to analyze the concept, Cooper said.

The analysis would examine what infrastructure already exists and what it would take to integrate it, what standards are being used and how they align across all the networks, and what legal and policy issues might pose roadblocks to the project, he said.

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